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To influence people don't try to persuade them, use ‘pre-suasion’ instead (latimes.com)
258 points by jrs235 on Oct 24, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 102 comments



"Pre-suasion" is another word for priming.[1] Incidentally, priming is one of the most prominent areas of social science that was once considered solid, but has now become under increased scrutiny due to failed replications.[2][3]

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priming_(psychology) [2]http://www.chronicle.com/article/Power-of-Suggestion/136907/ [3]http://psych.stanford.edu/~michael/papers/Ramscar-Shaoul-Baa...


And it has the potential to fail catastrophically for the guy doing this, too.

Can anyone still take the other side in a negotiation (or any other situation, really) seriously if it becomes know that they're trying to pull this parlor trick? Whoever is found out doing this would seem both ridiculous and repellent.

Like a pickup artist.


> Can anyone still take the other side in a negotiation (or any other situation, really) seriously if it becomes know that they're trying to pull this parlor trick?

That's why it's so important to know about these things. Once armed with knowledge, it becomes a parlor trick. If you don't know about the techniques, then you're playing at a disadvantage.

I read the author's previous book on influence[1] and it was rigorously researched with confirmable studies. Well worth reading, since it surveys a wide variety of mind hacks people play on us across 8 or so broad categories. It changed the way I thought about all kinds of situations I routinely encounter.

https://www.amazon.com/Influence-Practice-Robert-B-Cialdini/...


> confirmable

But were they indeed confirmed? This is the problem that keeps cropping up. Sometimes I wonder if believing in findings from the psychological literature isn't a disadvantage. Knowing about them is good -- you can pick up on the chumps who actually believe them. But believing them?

It's not at all clear to me that uncritical acceptance of these studies is ever a good idea. The response of senior investigators shrilly decrying "methodological terrorism" when their small-sample findings fail to replicate does little to increase confidence in said findings (or, indeed, the field as a whole).

nb. In no way is this confined to psychology. It's just more rampant there, to judge by the foundational manner in which the field has been shaken up. Nobody doubts that PCR works or that iPSCs can be induced, because the experiments to replicate the results are relatively trivial. But the nature of psychological research seems to make such exercises very difficult, to the point that individuals "take it on faith" that an effect is real (as opposed to assuming it's wrong and running a quick experiment to show that the next year or two of their life won't be wasted). Maybe we're just more cynical in bench-based disciplines?


Psychology definitely needs a higher level of rigor in their studies. It is frustrating but you just have to pick apart the methodology more rigorously to be reasonably certain. Understanding how our brains work even at a rudimentary level is too useful to pass up.


> But were they indeed confirmed? This is the problem that keeps cropping up.

The book is carefully researched and exquisitely footnoted. Can you cite something specific that you have a problem with in the book? I'm curious if you have even read this book or if you just stating a more general concern about people who do me publish research.


I can't quite understand your last sentence -- I publish, as do most academics, so that can't be it. But Cialdini is the "pre-suasion" guy, and that one has certainly failed to replicate. So I guess I have a prior skepticism about anything from a standard textbook publisher covering similar topic. I've found too many errors in exercises, etc. to believe that their editors are doing much of a job; it's a drag when you're teaching a stats methods class and the book questions have major numeric errors so you can't use it for homework. What's the purpose of the book at that point?

Next time I teach (actually the past few as well) I'm not going to bother with a textbook. Go pull these primary research articles, pull the data, and see if the methods were used correctly. The end.

As previously, I've had some surprised looks when students did this with biological data sets. It's not like psychology is some rogue's gallery; it's a widespread problem. Only solution is to verify results before building upon them.


In this http://suffadv.wikidot.com/ RPG, one of your stats represents the level of "applied psychology" in use in your home culture. The more advanced / pervasive the use of the applied psychology, the stronger your character's inherent ability to defend against it.


Influence is a great book (and a fun read).

Although the author himself marketed it that way, it's a lot deeper than just "parlor tricks" to get you to buy stuff.

It explains fundamentally why some people may listen to you and others may not (and vice versa). As someone who was always a poor influencer, I always wondered why if I explained something to someone, they would reject it. But if someone else explained it in the same way, they would accept it. The book explains why really well.

Overall, if you do not conform well to societal norms (that includes being a geek), it will explain why your life will be miserable.

It explains why people can be persuaded to do crazy things like committing suicide for a cult (and why others won't do such things).

It also explains the power of reciprocity (as well as its down side). It starts with a simple story: The author was walking down the street when a kid tried to sell him a chocolate bar for $2 for some good cause. The author doesn't like chocolate, and it's too expensive. The kid then says "OK, I'll give it to you for a dollar!" The author, kind of automatically paid him a dollar and took the chocolate. A few minutes later, he wondered why he bought it: He doesn't like chocolate and doesn't care about the cause! The reason was reciprocity: The kid made a concession, and he automatically felt a need to reciprocate.

This is a common tactic in negotiations (and one negotiation training often warns you about), so you could view it as a parlor trick. But it does go deeper.

Many people in my life have gotten upset with me because:

1. They would have a request of me that I do not want to grant.

2. They offer me something for it - something I do not care for.

3. They make concessions on things or offer me more - again for things I do not care for.

4. They then get upset at me that I'm selfish, look how much others are willing to do for me and I don't reciprocate, etc.

But, umm, why should I reciprocate for something that is of no value to me? These people are not trying to manipulate me - this is their true feeling. Humans are hard wired for reciprocity, and when you don't play along, people can get upset.

I once asked a friend to do some exercise with me. He agreed, but when the time came he really didn't want to do it (bad weather). He said "Hey, tell you what: I'll do this for you if you learn skill X" (skill X is something I've been avoiding for years.

To me, learning skill X is a huge investment I did not want to make, and certainly not worth doing just to get him to exercise with me that day. So I decided to release him from his obligation. I declined his offer and said it's OK if he doesn't want to work out with me today.

Over a year later, I discovered that had upset him. From his perspective, he was willing to make a big sacrifice for me (work out with me that day with poor weather), but I was not willing to reciprocate. I had to explain to him: It was a big sacrifice for him, but only a small gain to me (it wasn't too big a deal if he didn't work out with me). Fundamentally, I do not need to reward him for making a big sacrifice, if I do not value it. I released him precisely because I sensed it was a big sacrifice, and did not want him to waste it.

Negotiation training teaches you this: If you want to make concessions, ensure they are meaningful to the other party. And on the flip side, be wary of concessions others make for you - if you do not value them, signal this strongly to the other side.

I may understand this, but most of the world doesn't. They will make concessions that have no value to you, and much of society will expect you to reciprocate. It'll take a lot of zen-fu not to get yourself in these situations.

tldr; Sorry for the lengthy comment. Book worth reading. And oh, I have only read a third of it...


Some very interesting ideas and stories in here. I can't help but wonder what you learned from this experience.

Because surely "be wary of concessions others make for you - if you do not value them, signal this strongly to the other side." is not sufficient advice.

By the time the person has made the concession, they've already struggled, weighed the pros and cons, and decided it was worthwhile to offer a sacrifice.

While I completely agree that you are under no obligation to reciprocate, and should be wary about people trying to maliciously trap you into such an obligation, you also have to be aware that friends and family members will do this to you inadvertently.

Explaining to them that this sacrifice is of no value to you can too easily be misconstrued as "you do not value me". If maintaining the social bond is important to you, then more is needed. I don't know what, though.


>Explaining to them that this sacrifice is of no value to you can too easily be misconstrued as "you do not value me". If maintaining the social bond is important to you, then more is needed. I don't know what, though.

Nor do I. I don't recall if the book had any good suggestions. I somewhat doubt it. It's a fairly light, humorous book, even when dealing with serious topics.

This is especially problematic across cultures. I grew up in one culture, but my parents are from a very different culture (and country). We would visit my relatives every year, and my parents constantly chided me for not showing gratitude. I was just a kid, and I kept telling my parents "If X was such a big deal for them, tell them not to do it next time!" I just wouldn't accept that I had to do something awesome when I did not feel I got anything in return (in fact, I often disliked many of the "concessions" people made for me, so it was doubly worse).

Innately I guess I understood the problem without knowing the concepts. Over the years, the signal did get through - my relatives would be told in advance not to spend money buying certain categories of gifts for me (e.g. clothes) because I likely would not use them.


Giving is easy, accepting a gift is really hard.


Welll they play on your brain so even when aware you sometimes get caught in it. Like upselling tricks: overdone they indeed turn me away for sure, but subtle things like phone capacity or bundled items or cpu megahertz? It's the magic of nonlinear pricing and 'it's just 5% more!'


Yes but this is missing the point: people successfully pulling it out actually mean what they say. They are emotionally connected to this reaction, and this is why it works most of the time for them. When Buffet wrote that, he probably felt it. When the Queen said that speech, she probably expressed something that really was on her mind for a long time.

Just like the best pickup artist I met were honest and direct people loving woman, sex and themself. They were artists because they practiced of course, but they practice because they genuinely liked it.

The palor tricks are just what you get when you try to emulate it. And it works if you are very good at faking it or if people are oblivious.

But even if it works, it is very taxing. Faking well something that has a deep emotional root means a big mind dissonance, and people doing that regularly usually become miserable on the long run.


> Can anyone still take the other side in a negotiation (or any other situation, really) seriously if it becomes know that they're trying to pull this parlor trick?

These are not tricks, they are human elements of communication that have been likely honed over millennia.

A good example is the influential properties of touch: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-attraction-doctor/2...

Tell me something, if a naturally-persuasive person uses these techniques (without realizing it) and a naturally-receptive person is influenced by them (without realizing it), is it still a "ridiculous, repellent parlor trick"?

If not, then why does simply knowing about it make it manipulative?


Can you please pass me the salt?

What??? You manipulative bastard!!!


I wonder, have any studies been done on identifying why some people find physical contact repellent? For example, I strongly dislike being touched in any way by bosses, salespeople, etc. It immediately makes me distrust them.

What leads to this difference, and have any studies or persuasion artists tried to detect and account for them?


Without trying to stereotype whatsoever, it's my impression that one group of people who loathe touch are autistics, http://healthland.time.com/2012/03/19/understanding-why-auti... but I don't know of a general term for the phenomenon


Isn't priming usually done intentionally? At least in the context of the article they're referring to intentional priming, which can seem pretty manipulative.


Well, look, did you read the article? I did. I read to the end. I thought, okay, I'll start using this.

But before I did I did one last thing. I asked myself, "Wait a minute - if this technique is so good, did the author use it?" I scrolled to the top of the page. This is the throwaway text that I thought I had completely ignored and was totally irrelevant:

>Today and every day we are the targets of salespeople, marketers, advertisers, fundraisers and (heaven knows) politicians trying to persuade us to buy something, do something or think a certain way. And they’re good at it.

When I was reading it I thought it was just throwaway stuff, like obviously you're telling me what I know!

But looking back - don't you think it pre-suaded me that certain people are really, really good at being persuasive? Which then "pre-suaded" me to agree with whatever the article would state about this, without knowing it?

I wonder if you did an A/B study on this article with the above lead sentence, versus an article that cuts out all of the first couple of sentences and just starts with "Research done in the last fifteen years shows that optimal persuasion is achieved through optimal pre-suasion: the practice of arranging for people to agree with a message before they know what’s in it...."

Do you think as many people would agree with the article under those conditions?

I don't! I think the pre-suasion technique of mentioning just how great experts are at persuasion, might have had a lot to do with why I - and likely others in this thread - agree with the article.

This stuff works.


I did read the article. But I didn't consider the first bit as a throwaway, and this might be the key issue here. If there's a situation where priming might work, it's when the person being primed has either no particular opinion on that issue or when they're in agreement with it.

I personally have strong priors against the effectiveness of advertisement and propaganda. I don't think the effects of these things are robust to different behavioural patterns and to increases in public awareness. So I didn't think of the first paragraph as a 'throwaway' bit.


>If there's a situation where priming might work, it's when the person being primed has either no particular opinion on that issue or when they're in agreement with it.

That's generally true. However, that's often the case in salary and pricing negotiations. Unless you have done your research first, you will be influenced by priming.

I bought a house. I'm not good at handy work. I need to hire a handyman to repair a few things. Do you know how difficult it is to get a good estimate on how much repairs should cost?

There's a skill building workshop I want to attend. With these kinds of workshops, you usually attend only once, so you don't have prior experience with costs. What should I pay?


you strike me as someone who's reasonable and willing to change their mind if they see a new angle.

So you seemed to be saying that the author wrote a whole article on how one can be much more persuasive by getting someone to agree to some general statement without actually expressing something particular about it -- without the author actually then doing so. :)

I mean, it would be like reading an article about how "short titles are better" so you agree with all of the points, then as a final check you scroll up to the top of the page and see that the article is titled "How shorter titles increase clickthrough rates, sharing rates, impact score, reading of the full article, and are basically better in every way -- according to research by Facebook." A long article about how short titles are better, but where the article itself doesn't have one.

That would be an example of an article not practicing what it preaches. How about our article? Do you think it does or doesn't "practice what it preaches"?

Does it try to "pre-suade" some measure of agreement? Does it start by talking about general statements, before it gets into its thesis? What do you think?


> you strike me as someone who's reasonable and willing to change their mind if they see a new angle.

Nice try, Sadat!


shhhh. :-D Yes, I applied the tool the article was about to see if it would work. (It's probably the first time I've ever used that formula in my life.)

You'll notice the poster let it be (if they noticed my reply). I'd like to see it in action though, so it would be better if they chose to reply so I could get that data point haha. I'll probably forget to start using it soon.


Masters at this "game" may prime you long before they need you. It's like a game of Go only more complex.


I've seen several references to the "replication crisis" in social sciences. Are there any prominent studies that have been replicated reliably? I'm just curious to look into them.


In the largest of these replication studies, results of 39 of 100 studies were successfully reproduced. It's hard to wade through but all the info is here: https://osf.io/ezcuj/wiki/home/


Psychometrics? Although the results aren't always politically correct like some of the priming ones.


Actually priming, both with conscious amd subliminal cues is one of the most studied and replicated phenomena in cognitive neuroscience. Studied through behavioral and brain imagery data.


The Dunning-Kruger Effect is regularly replicated.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect#...


The study you cite shows an opposite result.

Are there independent replications that actually show the same effect? I recall an attempted replication that produced equal miscalibrations on the upper and lower ends of the distribution, suggesting that the effect was just mean regression.


Your link also says that the Dunning-Kruger effect does not quite work for Asian cultures. I wonder if these persuasion tricks aren't also tied to culture. Do the tricks work in places/cultures were trust is generally low?


Trust is low in Asia, everyone is expected to lie as a general rule.


not a subject matter expert, but there doesn't seem to be controversy around the original concept of "priming speeds up recognition of related words". What seems to be controversial is priming modifying how things are interpreted, or even decision making. On the other hand, anchoring seems to be well accepted, and anchoring isn't far off from this version of priming.


I thought this felt a bit glib.


I am reminded of the DoD funded paper out of UCLA on using MRIs to aide in the production of Middle Eastern focused, Pentagon directed social media propaganda using "pre-suasion" [1].

The paper states that three general categories of tactic are used to "pre-suade" civilians that may be otherwise on the lookout because they think someone may be trying to influence them (in which case cognitive defense mechanisms come into play).

The paper summarizes that a few techniques can be used in an attempt to circumvent active and alert defenses:

1. "affirmation" - attaching your message to something that the target wants to affirm or reaffirm and including your new information along with old information.

2. "resource depletion" - providing so much information or stimulation or messaging that the target is 'exhausted' of trying to resist the message and relaxes into coping with it.

3. "narrative persuasion" - masking the message or information in a story with which the target self-identifies, therein allowing the message to seem like legitimate material to the target.

[1] http://minerva.dtic.mil/doc/samplewp-Lieberman.pdf


All interesting, and perhaps accurate, except the very case mentioned, U.S. ability to influence opinion in the Middle East, is a good example of the limitations. I would not call our situation with regard to popular opinion in the Middle East in the last few years an unqualified success. Sometimes other things matter a lot more then your "pre-suasion". I think in a lot of cases these sorts of techniques get called in too late, and asked to do too much, to rescue a PR disaster.


The problem with all this nudging and using of biases to influence people is that it is hardly better than spicing their drinks with drugs to make them more complacent and willing to agree.

In my personal experience, being honest and reasonable, sticking to the facts and presenting good arguments have worked better in the long run than any eristic tricks. It depends, though, there are some fields where arguments do not really count and people are fairly irrational anyway, so I don't want to condemn these methods in general. Just as a tendency, it seems better to take other people seriously rather than only as allies or antagonists and as mere means to an end.


>The problem with all this nudging and using of biases to influence people is that it is hardly better than spicing their drinks with drugs to make them more complacent and willing to agree.

Funny that you mention that, because one of the recommended, "ethical" techniques mentioned in Influence is to serve caffeine to make the other party more compliant.


I agree with your personal experience, and I also dislike such methods. That said, I'm reminded of what I recently read in "Getting to Yes", which commented on underhand tactics. While not recommending them (and refraining from opinionating on morals), the book pointed out some things to consider; particularly:

- whether or not the other side is someone you'll want to maintain a longer-term relationship with

- how use of such methods affects your reputation as a negotiator


Good considerations that shed light on why your experience with a new car salesman (representing a car manufacturer that is vying for your loyalty) can be so different from a salesman on a used car lot.

See also those late night infomercials that pack as many "parlor tricks" as they can into an ad, for a product from a fly-by-night company that you don't even know the name of.


You can't compare that. Drugs is easier to use, doesn't require training, and works all the time.


Yeah, there’s an enormous difference between software exploits (cognitive biases) and hardware exploits (drugs). Although both are basically an infringement on free will, even if someone plants an idea in my mind, I’m still much less vulnerable than if they give me something (alcohol/GHB/scopolamine) to force me to be more suggestible.


Drugs in someone's drink doesn't scale. Except tap water, I guess, but large conspiracies are hard to hide.



I never got it that Jack Ripper and bis bodily fluids in Dr Strangelove were meant to be a reference to anti fluoridation campaigners


> Fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face.


Why not both?

Can you also pre-suade someone and then present an honest and reasonable argument?


You can, but you have to ask yourself, if you should.

Aside of the moral issue of performing a hostile action to limit other side's agency, you should also consider how - if discovered - it will affect your relationship with the other side, as well as your reputation.


You might notice that this is, in fact, an promotion for the author's book. If it manages to persuade you to buy it, then we can say that he's a reliable source of information on persuasion, since he successfully persuaded you. If he didn't, then good job avoiding this snake-oil meta-salesman, how could you trust him if he couldn't even sell a book? Either way, well done, you have made the correct choice!


Cialdini is a salesman with credentials who's spent most of his time studying good salesmen and selling other salesmen on the idea of learning how to sell better.

At the end of his big bestseller Influence, he goes into a long-winded moralization about how he hopes his work helps people resist the terrible influence of immoral salesmanship... for example by being mindful of the "secret weapons" of Social Proof and Authority and Scarcity.

of course, he writes this in a book (a NATIONAL BESTSELLER as it says on the cover) that is literally covered in testimonials and promotional blurbs from "thought leaders" with credentials, mainstream publications like HBR and Fortune, praising Cialdini, PHD for revealing "little known secrets of Master Influencers" yada yada yada.


Reminds me of the proverb about letting others praise you and not praising yourself. Though seems quite mixed when you echo the praise of others.


>If it manages to persuade you to buy it, then we can say that he's a reliable source of information on persuasion, since he successfully persuaded you.

Good catch. I did not notice he had written the article.

Well sure, buying the book may show he's a reliable source of information on persuasion.

But, you know, being a very widely cited researcher may show it better. :-) I've encountered references to his work in many places.


I think an important offshoot of this is to use specific language and ideas prior to your argument not to necessarily influence someone to the coming argument against their better judgement, but to actually free them to use accurate judgement.

I have no idea if it works, but I often try to lead gently into my arguments here. I try not to make too many assumptions about what the reader will think about the prerequisites for my argument, and so go through my assumptions about them and why I believe them, and then present my actual argument. It's my hope this somewhat softens the natural tendency to ignore evidence and claims counter to their own beliefs by presenting supporting evidence they might agree with first. This is a simple concept and one I'm sure many people use, whether they are specifically working around what they see as a deficit of human rationality like me, or just because they think it's effective (if it is!).

What I think is important about this is that it's an example of how we can use our cognitive biases for good. We can pit them against each other to open ourselves up to the more rational sides of our minds. It's important we don't associate all forms of manipulating our minds through presentation negatively through labeling. It's easy to say it's manipulation, and manipulation is bad, but that's just falling prey to another one of our cognitive biases, where we group similar things, and transfer attributes between them, whether they apply or not. It's very important we as a specifies learn from our weaknesses, and try to mitigate them, not just paper over them like they aren't there. I think the future is bleak if we don't.


I don't know if you used the technique on your own post but I find my self strongly agreeing with it ;)

Every technique, every tool, every idea can used for "good" and "bad". A problem I see is the massively overpowered tendency of the personal gains seekers and market winners and profit hunters to engross and harmfully misuse _everything_ for their gains. It makes me seek to discover how helpful and constructive ideas/techniques are violated (bcos they are only very shallowly understood) and used _against_ people. Quite often I find this has to do we the ethics an area is entertaining. So therapists, social workers f.e. will use those tools differently and in a more constructive way than ppl. in the Biz-World bound only to "Biz-Ethics".


This is also referred to as "priming" which researchers have repeatedly failed to replicate.

See: http://psych.stanford.edu/~michael/papers/Ramscar-Shaoul-Baa...


"Priming" covers a lot of ground. At one end of the spectrum, there are fairly straightforward lexical priming effects. You can recognize the (scrambled/faint/etc) word "Banana" faster if you've been previously primed to think about fruit. These effects are pretty robust (at least as far as I know) and are fairly consistent with some models of memory.

At the other end of the spectrum are these embodied cognition experiments that fall back on "priming" as an explanation. For example, people allegedly walk more slowly after being primed with words related to old age, or view others as being more "warm" if the subject hands them a hot beverage. These typically do not replicate well and tend to fall back on vague, handwavey theories.


Any worthwhile scientific study is going to consist of highly controlled experiments that are designed to answer very specific questions.

To apply research results to negotiation/persuasion scenarios "in the wild" would be intractably difficult because the situations are going to be utterly uncontrolled.

By the same token, I don't think that it's reasonable to dismiss "priming" as a practical business communication tactic just because it isn't easy to perform a repeatable experiment about it.


This reminds me of Daniel Kahneman's "Thinking, Fast and Slow", which is terrific but probably oversells some of the research results.

Anyone know how well this new psychology stuff is surviving the replication crisis in the humanities?

Edit to add: less charitably, it also reminds me of Scott Adams' rambling blog posts about Donald Trump. Adams has persuaded himself that this persuasion stuff is like magic, and applies it to everything he sees. It's the new astrology.


> Anyone know how well this new psychology stuff is surviving the replication crisis in the humanities?

As a snarky rule of thumb, I'd say the likelihood of a study replicating is inversely proportional to the likelihood of a study showing up in a a TED Talk.

If someone claims that you can make people like you more by handing them hot drinks, or radically change their views on a topic with a brief conversation, I'd be skeptical. However, there still are a lot of people doing solid behavioral work that doesn't make a huge splash in the popular press.


I'm pretty sure Scott Adams is mentally unraveling with all the mental gymnastics he's going through projecting an image that he's not a Trump supporter.


In all fairness you have to say that the FBI contacted him because some of the death threats he received were credible. (he lives in California which is quite intolerant towards conservatives)

I also wouldn't act in a consistent way if I had to fear for my life.


If you're at all interested in psychology and the human mind, I highly recommend Cialdini's earlier book, Influence. It has some absolutely amazing insights into how people persuade and influence each other, and is one of the few non-fiction books I've read several times.


This article certainly seems to be pre-suading people to buy Cialdini's books...!


I hacked the system... by checking it out at my local library instead of buying the book :)


Odd thesis. Whatever comes before will influence how people perceive what comes after. Uses example of seeing clouds or coins; then buying a sofa. Those that saw soft things, bought softer sofas. Hm. I'm having trouble imagining how they measured that.

Then the opposite example is used - a queen says "I have a weak body but" and then excites the troops to battle. How is that similar? Its the opposite. They 'explain' it by suggesting the truthfulness of the initial statement establishes the truthfulness of the following statements. Very meta.

This sounds weak. Either 'pre-suasion' works one way or it doesn't? Which is it? I don't think the OP understood what they were saying. In fact, I think they made the whole thing up.


The "pre-suasion" in the Queen's case was to build trust (through disarming honesty) before attempting to convince the troops to believe in her strength.

The basic idea is that you shouldn't just jump right into the message you're trying to deliver, but first prime your audience to hear it. There are many ways to do this, not just one.


You said that better than the OP. In fact the OP opened with an example that didn't explain it at all. They oversold the gimmick - 'like begets like!' Then they contradicted that.

For a person who's supposed to be convincing me about the right way to convince, they did an awful job.


What I'm about to say is pretty hand-wavy (pre-suasion), but this concept of pre-suasion is important for when you are interviewing, or being interviewed for a job. Let's say you are interviewing someone for a position in your company, and you don't have an exact job description and set of requirements for that role; you are just looking to hire someone "good". That person can actually pre-suade you into overvaluing some skill, or aspect of their skill set that they want you to focus on. They can frame the argument in your mind as to whether you want to hire them on not based on an argument of their choosing. For example, they can make the argument in your mind that they are a fast developer, then the internal argument in your mind becomes whether they are truly fast or not, and if you are convinced that they are fast, then they become much more likely to be hired by you. This is not the best example, but it's a common sales tactic called "framing" the argument.


This is an area where being decent at deflecting into a personal area of expertise can be really effective.

And sometimes it doesn't require a deflection - if someone asks me about my favorite data structure, it's easy to go on for fifteen minutes about the beauty and utility of either union-find or Voronoi diagrams.


The author of the article is according to Scott Adams (author of the Dilbert comic strips) currently consulting for Hillary Clintons campaign. It will be interesting to see on 9th of November if his strategy worked or not.


> ... before the description of strengths, he declared with characteristic sincerity that what he was about to assert was “what I would say to my family today if they asked me about Berkshire’s future.”. The result was a flood of favorable reaction to the letter ... as well as a per-share increase for the year of nearly five times that of the S&P.

I like Buffet but this kind of mythologizing doesn't help anyone. The report in question was the 2014 report (http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/2014ltr.pdf) which is typically released in Feb of the following year (so early 2015). BRK.A underperfomed the S&P500 in the following year.

BRK.A did outperform the S&P500 in 2014, but unless I'm missing something, the author is attributing the performance in 2014 to the reaction to a letter released in early 2015.


I'm about 2/3 of the way through "Pre-suasion". It's a bit of a chore; you can definitely tell the author is an academic. But the content is a treasure trove. I have a feeling I'll be referring to it again and again.


Have you also read Cialdini's timeless business classic _Influence_? If so, which would you recommend I start with?


The order isn't terribly important, especially since Cialdini revisits the contents of Influence in Pre-suasion.

If you want the best bang for your buck, Influence has a higher idea/page ratio. It's still a pretty bad ratio — Cialdini isn't the best writer, and the accumulation of anecdotes gets boring quickly, and you can get most of the substance by looking at a couple blog articles about the 6 "weapons of persuasion."

It's important to also note that all of his theories are built on shaky ground, but it's a useful inspiration source of A/B testing ideas if you're revamping a landing page or something similar.


Thanks for the suggestion to read blog articles about the six weapons of persuasion, davidivadavid. Any that you recommend as especially insightful?

I do wish I could find a good summary of Pre-suasion... maybe I'll have to write one when I am done.


Here's an example of a fairly good/"actionable" summary: http://conversionxl.com/how-to-use-cialdinis-6-principles-of...

NB: Might not be what you're looking for if you're more interested in the research behind it.


> you can get most of the substance by looking at a couple blog articles about the 6 "weapons of persuasion."

> Here's an example of a fairly good/"actionable" summary

davidivadavid just gave a demo here of "pre-suation" in action. First, suggesting looking at blog articles to find out more substance about the topic, and then later (ph0rque may or may not be colluding with him), he gave a reference to a specific article.


No collusion here, I genuinely wanted to know.


Then you've been pre-suaded.


No, an actionable summary is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks! If you know of a similar summary for Pre-suasion, let me know.


I have not, but it's on my list. In fact, I'd like to read all of the recommended books/articles/etc in chapters 3 and 4 of Scott Adams' Persuasion Reading List (http://blog.dilbert.com/post/129784168866/the-persuasion-rea...).


Definitely Influence.


I like to know about these kinds of tricks so that it is harder for people to use them against me. But I would hate to find myself using them against another person. It's dishonest and disrespectful.

My guideline is pretty simple: Would I be upset if someone used this tactic on me? If so, I shouldn't use it either.



I think the keys to winning people over are pretty simple, right? Kindness, authenticity, and making a good case for yourself (or whatever you're trying to persuade them on). People really don't respond well to any kind of manipulation tactic- you may find yourself winning the battle, but losing the war. I think if people can tell that you're owning a weakness in an authentic way, and then presenting a strength in an equally authentic way, that can be a good persuasion technique. However, if you're just bs'ing people to win them over, they will sense it, and you will fail.


I haven't read his book, but if anyone is curious on these experiments, you can read more on the following books (In fact, the article seems a mash of both of them):

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking - The author mentions experiments where people exposed to more agressive or relaxed interactions can react differently and many other situations (similar to the money/cloud backgrounds examples).

How to Win Friends and Influence People - Describes interaction strategies to avoid conflicts and create trust (such as the letter example).


The thing is, you never know when someone is going to see through it and lose respect for you for using a tactic that's more transparent than you think.


agree. people hate being 'sold'


People LOVE being sold things/ideas they agree with. e.g. How many people tune into to Apple's product announcements?

People don't like rasping attempts to change their mind.

The key to selling is that it should never feel like "sales", as the listener understands it.

Many here will argue that Apple's announcements aren't really selling, they're informative, exciting, useful, keep one abreast of the latest, useful to know in the space. etc. That's perfectly executed selling: I'm _not_ being pitched. I'm deciding on my own that this fits my wants and needs.


> Those who saw the soft clouds were more likely to prefer soft, comfortable sofas for purchase

Oh yeah? How much more likely? And with what confidence interval?


I'm skeptical this persuasion stuff works http://greyenlightenment.com/behavioral-psychology-and-influ...

people are always looking for shortcuts and life hacks to get what they want, and I wish it were that easy


Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), Narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), Psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), Sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others)


The practice of influencing people can easily be misinterpreted with negativity. Pre-suasion or priming are both about understanding and reading people better, anticipating what they need/want before they want so you can plant a seed. We work with tons of customers and our customer service team is trained to influence them just so they can have a more positive experience. We wrote about it here too: http://bit.ly/2eykG3f


Using a link shortener on HN is not necessary, and it makes the people here less likely to click. We're a tough crowd. Do you have a direct link?



Thanks. I'm one of those people that wouldn't click on your previous link.

Your site seems overall interesting.


To clarify, it's not my site. I'm just a passerby who clicked the tiny URL so others wouldn't have to. :-)


Thus I have practiced learning if our inaction is genuine and how to spin you off if it isn't.


I have never thought of reading Cialdini's blog.. ! I am not surprised he lives in LA ! ;)


A quote from the book (Pre-suasion)

"Taylor reports that she knew then, without a single piece of data yet collected, that her experiment would be a success because the rehearsal had already produced the predicted effect—in her."

This is why psychologists are being laughed out of science.




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